JUNE 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

It is usually a toss-up between the Olive Thrushes or the Laughing Doves which will be the first to arrive at the replenished feeders each morning. Close on their heels come the Southern-masked Weavers – still the most dominant weaver in our garden by far. The male Cape Weavers are already looking ready for the breeding season, with some showing more deeply coloured faces than others:

I never tire of seeing the rather shy Spectacled Weaver that darts out of the shrubbery when the coast is clear and is quick to disappear in a flash:

Black-headed Orioles call from high in the tree tops and have only occasionally swooped down to refresh themselves at the nectar feeder. The Speckled Pigeons have had a bit of a shock this month as we have at last got the boards under the eaves repaired. With a bit of luck they will now seek someone else’s roof in which to raise their next families – they had become too much to deal with in terms of the mess they make and their propensity to chase each other around the ceiling at night. I might have mentioned before that one of them (the same one?) has taken to eating the fish or tiny bits of chicken I put out on occasion – it even chases other birds away until it has eaten its fill. That sounds a little macabre, so here is an ever-cheerful Black-eyed (dark-capped) Bulbul to lift the mood:

Several Common Starlings are coming to visit at a time now, their beaks have turned yellow within the last few weeks, so I imagine they too are thinking about the breeding season ahead. Also in a courting mood has been a pair of Knysna Turacos that have been following each other through the trees and occasionally showing me their beautiful red wings when they fly across the garden. The other morning one of them came to drink at the bird bath not very far from where I was sitting – I felt very privileged to be so close to one. The photograph below is a cheat not from this month, but we all need to see beautiful creatures from time to time and I would love to share this one:

The Bronze Mannikins give me great cause for delight with their daily visits:

Lastly, the Red-winged Starlings continue to fly around the suburb in large flocks. I think whatever fruit they had managed to find in the fig tree is over for now they gather in the Erythrina caffra, where they nibble at the remaining few flowers and at the seedpods. Up to six of them at a time fly down to investigate the apples I have placed in the feeding area – and tend to make short work of them! This is a female:

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver

MAY 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

Days are cooling down and the nights are becoming uncomfortably cold. Red-winged Starlings are gathering in ever-larger flocks as they swoop around the neighbourhood in search of food. I counted twenty of them in the Erythrina caffra yesterday – nibbling at the few scarlet blossoms that are left on the tree. African Green Pigeons continue to hide effectively in the dark green foliage of the Natal fig, although I can hear them chuckling daily. I often feature Olive Thrushes, so will spare you yet another photograph of these delightful birds. Nonetheless, it has been fun watching a spotty youngster grow in confidence so quickly that it now even chases adults away from the fruit on the feeding tray if it wishes.

The fruit I provide regularly attracts a pair of Black-collared Barbets. One alights on the tray first, while the other waits in the branches above for a while before joining the first. They are either the first to visit, or come after the main feeding rush is over.

The Cape Robin-chat has been particularly shy and skittish this year. It peeps out from between the leaves and even advances towards the feeding tray, but flies off as soon as any other bird approaches.

Last month I mentioned seeing a female Thick-billed Weaver. I have spotted it several times this month, either perched on the edge of the bird bath or in the shrubbery.

I was delighted to spot a Hoopoe on our back lawn the other day. It was so busy pecking at the grass that I doubt if it noticed my approach.

Bronze Mannikins are such a delight to watch as they flit around the garden and especially when they crowd around the feeder to eat the seeds.

Then there are the Common Starlings. Usually only one or two come to the feeding area. Today a large flock of them were perched in first the Erythrina caffra and then moved into the Natal fig.

Having observed an unusual bird for three days in a row, I was at last able to identify it as a Brown Scrub-Robin – a first for my garden – only to have it disappear again! There is so much dead wood around the garden that the Cardinal Woodpecker can frequently be heard bashing away at it. Unfortunately it is usually far too high up for me to take a photograph worthy of showing off. The same applies to a pair of Crowned Hornbills that attracted my attention by pecking loudly at a window pane in our neighbour’s house. They flew into the Natal fig as I approached them – and that was the end of that! Both the Spectacled Weaver and the Grey-headed Sparrows have made a welcome return to the garden – and I caught a fleeting glimpse of a Long-billed Crombec. It might be cold, yet this has been a good month for garden birding.

My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Brown Scrub-Robin
Cape Batis
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Crowned Hornbill
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Forest Canary
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Long-billed Crombec
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Thick-billed Weaver
Village Weaver

APRIL 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

I am delighted to report that the African Green Pigeons are back in full force this month. Their characteristic grunting sounds are heard from early in the morning and, if I look carefully at the shaking leaves in the fig tree, I catch sight of some of them most afternoons. An exciting visitor, even though I only saw it once, was a single male Dusky Indigo bird – I have not seen these in my garden for some years. Yet another interesting visitor has been a single female Thick-billed Weaver: she has made several forays into the feeding area and has perched on the edge of the bird bath a few times – never when I have my camera though!

In other news, the ‘tame’ Common Fiscal we call Meneer still comes to collect his handout from me several times a week. These days he usually collects a maximum of two tiny pieces of meat and flies away. His rival, the ringed Common Fiscal, frequently sits in the branches above my head and eyes my offerings, but prefers to go to the feeding tray for his meals.

Depending on what is on offer, the feeding tray can get rather busy at times – look at these weavers having a feast.

While these females might appear to be chatting while they eat, it is not always a harmonious scene. Here a female weaver is telling off a Black-eyed Bulbul. He looks quite affronted.

It wasn’t a good day for the bulbuls, for here an Olive Thrush is approaching one in a threatening manner.

As we still have no rain, there is sunshine aplenty. These Laughing Doves are sunning themselves on the bare ground underneath the seed feeders.

Lastly, a pair of Southern Boubous have become regular visitors. They skulk around in the undergrowth or call loudly to each other from hidden perches. I have only seen one of them coming out into the open to feed at any one time.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Batis
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Dusky Indigo Bird
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Forest Canary
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Thick-billed Weaver
Village Weaver
Yellow Weaver

FEBRUARY 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

There are a few mysteries about the avian visitors to our garden that have had me puzzled this month. Among them are: why are the apples I have put out been pecked at only a few times and then left to shrivel? I have tried two different kinds (both have been tasty and juicy for me); why am I seeing ever fewer Village Weavers – are the Southern Masked Weavers finally taking over this territory? Where have the Speckled Mousebirds gone? I hear both Olive Thrushes and Cape Robin-chats in the shrubbery and yet see very little of them in the feeding area. Common Starlings pop in only every now and then; and the Black-headed Orioles very seldom visit the nectar feeder … Drought cannot be the only answer, for I provide fresh water daily; the seed is replenished daily and I regularly replenish any other food I happen to put out.

Such questions continue to mull over in my mind as I settle to watch birds every morning and as often as I can during the afternoon. February is a time of change: our weather remains very hot albeit with increasingly cooler days between; leaves on the deciduous trees are yellowing, turning brown and float to the ground in the slightest breeze; thin layers of cloud arrive – some even tower up enticingly high on the horizon to catch the pinkish light of the setting sun, yet hardly any rain worth mentioning has fallen. The Common Fiscals and Southern Masked Weavers are still feeding their impatient young; the Lesser-striped Swallows have mostly disappeared and the White-rumped Swifts will be off before long.

The Cape White-eyes continue to provide joy as they visit the nectar feeder often and work their way through the shrubbery.

I had a magnificent view of an African Harrier-Hawk flying low over our garden for two days in a row. On the first occasion I was alerted to its presence by the birds I was watching disappearing in a whoosh of feathers and dust as they sought shelter in the surrounding trees and shrubs. The following day I watched as a pair of Red winged Starlings escorted it out of ‘their’ airspace.

A pair of Hadeda Ibises regularly forage through the leaf litter in the garden – very quietly for such large birds until something gives them a fright and they soar away with loud ‘ha-ha-hadeda’ sounds.

Having had another eye operation this month has made using binoculars impossible, nor can I use my usual spectacles with any confidence yet, so my identification of this as a Forest Canary may be way off and I am happy for it to be placed into its correct ‘box’:

My bird list for February contains both the regulars as well as some new arrivals:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-Hawk
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Forest Canary
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Long-billed Crombec
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow-fronted Canary

JANUARY 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

There were 48 birds on my list for last January and 45 this year. I doubt if there are really fewer birds that could be seen from our garden, rather I wasn’t necessarily there to see them. So much depends on when I am outside, how long I spend outside, where I settle to watch birds, and what the weather is like. Birds are scarce during high temperatures – and we have experienced some days of up to 40°C – and equally so during damp weather – very few of those this month!

Possibly the most exciting bird action for me this month was the unexpected arrival of a Steppe Buzzard that sent a flock of Laughing Doves scattering in all directions. I heard a loud, yet muffled, thump and there it was, only about two meters away from me! It blinked at me for a second or two and then flew off so silently that had I not witnessed its departure I would have wondered what had happened to it. Its hunting foray was unrewarded. This one is not in my garden but was photographed on the edge of town.

A pair of Southern Boubous have become regular visitors to the feeding area this month. They arrive either singly or together, waiting in the shrubbery until the coast is clear before coming out in the open.

Of course it is always a delight when the Bronze Manikins come to visit. They have been breeding very successfully for I have seen a whole flock of youngsters accompany the adults when feeding on seed that has fallen to the ground from the hanging feeders. Weavers too have been feeding grain to their chicks.

The Black-collared Barbets are keeping the doctor away by eating apple every day.

A pair of Black-eyed Bulbuls have been hard-pressed feeding their youngster, which is waiting on a rock – not too patiently – for the next bite of apple. The parents have been gradually enticing their youngster to come ever closer to the source of the apples.

Another bird that has just about been run ragged feeding offspring is the ringed Common Fiscal. Once I realised that it was frantically feeding not one chick but three, I helped out by providing some very finely chopped meat. This chick has a slice of sausage – that escaped the chopping – in its beak. I will show more photographs of these chicks in a later post.

I was fascinated to watch a Speckled Pigeon helping itself to some of the chopped meat – I assumed they only ate grain and occasionally fruit.

My January bird list:

African Darter
African Green Pigeon
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Crow
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Steppe Buzzard
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow-billed Kite